Stacey and I met when we participated in an author panel discussion in Jacksonville. Her Young Adult books involve contemporary settings, with a twist. She believes, “Real life is scary and interesting enough on its own. I don’t think you need to embellish it.”
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I grew up in southwest Florida (on the Gulf Coast), but I’ve moved around a lot as an adult. My husband and I have a tendency to pack up and move every 3-6 years. We’ve lived in several cities in Florida, moved overseas to live in the UK and then moved back stateside to live just outside of NYC. Our most recent move took us to Jacksonville, Florida, where we now live with our two dogs – and we are hoping to stay put for a while.
I have degrees from UCF and Duke Law School, and I practiced law for almost twenty years. Now, I write full-time.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I was working full-time as in-house counsel for an international corporation. It was a very fast paced, high-pressure job, but it wasn’t artistically creative. Needing a creative outlet, I began writing stories at night, on weekends and, occasionally, on my lunch break. The first book I started writing took about 12 years to complete, but it wasn’t my first published book. It was actually the third book I published. I’ve been writing for almost 15 years, and I have four books published with another one on the way. I write Young Adult fiction, and I love the genre. My books are, in publication order: Sycamore Lane, Inland, Ortus and Juvenis (the last two are the first two installments in a five-part series called The Elixir Vitae Adventures).
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
The biggest challenge for me is marketing my books. When I first started out as an author, I was surprised by how much time it took to market my books and promote myself as an author. I’m not a natural salesperson, so it’s a skill I’m still developing.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I consider it my biggest success when people (especially kids!) come up to me and tell me they’ve read and enjoyed my stories. There’s no bigger thrill, or honor, as a writer.
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you?
I gravitate to thrillers, mysteries and suspense. When I was a kid, my mom (who taught elementary school for many years) introduced me to my very first Nancy Drew book. I read that first one (The Secret in the Old Clock), and I was hooked! I couldn’t get enough. In one summer, I ready every Nancy Drew book my library carried.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I’d like to be able to say “yes,” but that’s not true. I don’t write every day. I find it’s an impossible goal for me to set for myself. Nevertheless, I aspire one day to be able to write everyday. That being said, I do work at my writing job everyday. There is always something that needs to be done. Either I’m writing my stories, editing my stories, researching and planning my stories, trying to market my books and/or handling other administrative tasks that need my attention. Writing is only part of the job – it’s the best part, but it’s still only one part.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I have just recently started a podcast entitled, The Bookshop at the End of the Internet. (I’ve recorded half a dozen interviews so far, and the first episode will go live in early December). The podcast is dedicated to helping book lovers find new authors. I interview authors from all walks of life, who write across all genres and who are published in a variety of ways (indie, small press, large publishing houses). It’s been a lot of fun speaking with the authors about their writing journeys, and I’ve learned something new about the art of writing from each interview.
I also do classroom visits with schools via Skype in the Classroom. It’s been a lot of fun to speak with students about writing and to answer their questions. So far, I’ve spoken with classes in half a dozen different states in the US, as well as classes in Canada, Panama and Australia. It’s been quite an adventure.
Share some tips: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
If I had to do it over again, I would have started writing much earlier. It would have been great to discover the joy of writing in school (by which I mean writing my own stories in my own way) and to have practiced that craft for much longer than I have been doing to date. Nevertheless, I came to writing at a time when I desperately needed a creative outlet, and I’m just pleased to have found it at all.
When I was ready, I took a leap of faith and made writing my full-time job. It was a bumpy start, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s the best job in the world.
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an interview, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.